Category: Mass Media

UNC alumnus writes about journalism’s role in stopping stigma against obesity

Chioma Ihekweazu is a recent doctoral graduate from our very own School of Media and Journalism here at UNC. Not only was I thrilled to see a kind peer’s work showcased in my newsfeed, I was also drawn in by her accurate criticism of how we talk about weight–obesity in particular.

She makes the very important point that while it’s not likely to hear patients who are suffering from cancer referred to as “cancerous” or “diseased”, it is quite common, even among respected news sources, to see the descriptor “obese people”. Chioma advises us to avoid playing into shaming language and “put the person before the condition”.

Please read her article here, though a few key takeaways are outlined below:

  • Avoid headless imagery (this is a form of shaming)–if needed, use non-stigmatizing stock photos
  • Recognize that weight loss is influenced by many factors–such as location, time, and access to food/physical activity
  • Do not use value-laden language; use “classes”, based on BMI, defined by CDC and NIH to talk about obesity
  • Have an appropriate headline
  • Report on facts

Chioma also provides some great examples and resources in her article, to not only help writers and reporters change their words, but also to recognize the flaws in our perspective.

 

 

Top 5 “Wins” for Health in 2017

2017 has been one for the books! Our country inaugurated a new president, two major hurricanes swept through the South, the first solar eclipse in a 100 years, the riots in Charlottesville, and most importantly the royal engagement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. In the health-related realm there were many notably scientific and policy advances that occurred this year. Here is my top 5 list of these occurrences.

  1. US Federal Court requires tobacco companies to put out corrective statements about harmful health effects of smoking as a consequence for misleading the public about this through advertisements
  2. First diagnosis of CTE in an alive patient (traumatic brain injury typically seen in football players)
  3. First baby born from a uterus transplant
  4. Development of a digital ingestion tracking system. This is a new technology with the ability to monitor drug adherence after the pill has been taken
  5. Decrease in daily consumption of sugary beverages consumed by Americans since 2014

There were many more significant health-related achievements over this year. What is your top 5 list?

 

References:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/14/health/soda-pop-sugary-drinks.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fhealth&action=click&contentCollection=health&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=search&contentPlacement=2&pgtype=sectionfront

 

http://abcnews.go.com/US/nfl-player-confirmed-1st-diagnosis-cte-living-patient/story?id=51181721

 

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/first-baby-born-from-a-uterus-transplant-in-the-u-s-delivered-in-texas/

 

http://www.cnn.com/2017/11/14/health/fda-digital-pill-abilify/index.html

 

https://www.tobaccofreekids.org/media/2017/corrective-statements

From Ke$ha to Kesha: A Glitter Queen’s Ascension to Self-Care Goddess

Last week, pop-artist Kesha authored a piece for Time on the added pressure of the Holiday season for those living with Mental Illness. In the piece, she discusses the added pressures that this time of year can add, but you might be asking yourself, who is Kesha to give me life advice?

Following a year that included a highly publicized comeback single, accompanied by her second Number One album, a critically proclaimed tour, and her first Grammy nominations, one could say things are going well for the artist who’s early career was built on electro-pop and a quirky party girl aesthetic. While her new album highlights overcoming personal struggles and finding self-acceptance, it has not been all Rainbows for Kesha.

While promoting her albums upcoming release over the summer, Kesha released a series of letters to fans regarding each single that dropped, sharing an intimate and personal look into the process of how she turned her pain into art. She touched on her time in rehab for an eating disorder, her struggles with mental illness, and her decision to drop the $ from her name. Starting with a piece published in Lenny Letter opening up about depression, finding empathy, and the process of turning pain into art through Praying, to a piece from Rolling Stone where she shared about her idols and Female Empowerment in Woman, to Learning to Let Go and defining her own mantras in Huffington Post, to sharing in Mic on feeling like an outcast and her passion for equality on Hymn, and finishing with a piece in Refinery29 regarding the album’s title track, Kesha provided fans with a detailed look into her songwriting process and personal life.

In being vulnerable, Kesha not only reminds us that there is a reason to keep fighting when things are not going well, but also continues an ongoing effort to destigmatize mental health. Through her songs and her form of blogging, Kesha showed the world the destruction of perfectionism and the benefits of radical self-love.

But rest assured: I can speak from seeing her in concert this fall that our girl still loves her glitter. Here’s to continue to rooting for her to continue reaching for the stars and shining bright for her fans in years to come.

Sources:

Kesha: The Holidays Are Hard If You Struggle With Mental Illness. Don’t Blame Yourself: http://time.com/5041017/kesha-self-care-holidays/

Kesha Fights Back in Her New Single, “Praying”: http://www.lennyletter.com/culture/a904/kesha-is-back-with-a-new-single-praying/

Read Kesha’s Poignant Essay About Celebratory New Song ‘Woman”: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/premieres/read-keshas-poignant-essay-about-celebratory-new-song-woman-w491950

Learn to Let Go: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/kesha-learn-to-let-go_us_59790480e4b02a8434b3841f

Read Kesha’s essay on her new single “Hymn” – a song for “people who feel like outcasts”: https://mic.com/articles/183195/kesha-essay-new-single-hymn-for-people-who-feel-like-outcasts#.D1hhvBGGM

Kesha: “What’s Left Of My Heart Is Fucking Pure Gold & No One Can Touch That”: http://www.refinery29.com/2017/08/167127/kesha-rainbow-lyrics-meaning-album-inspiration

Using Mass Communication to Curb Obesity

Internationally we continue to see substantial increases in overweight and obesity rates. In 2016, the World Health Organization reported that about 39% of all adults were overweight. Since overnutrition seems to traverse cultures, languages and international waters many people are looking for the most effective and efficient way of promoting positive health behaviors that promote a healthy weight. I believe mass media campaigns could serve as a solution to the problem. Health professionals can use mass media to improve the dietary habits of populations through multimedia-based communication efforts.

Over the past ten years, we have seen considerable changes in mass media communication largely due to increased use of mobile technology, especially social media. As access to mobile technology increases and people use smart-technology at increasing rates, health professionals have increased opportunities to address the importance of nutrition and physical activity. I believe that no other intervention approach has the potential for as wide a reach as mass media. Mass media campaigns that target individual dietary behaviors like increasing vegetable intake or reducing sodium are effective at promoting those behaviors (1). The “5-A-Day” campaign was successful in its efforts to increase fruit and vegetable intake. It was associated with a significant increase in fruit and vegetable consumption and increased awareness of health benefits associated with consuming fruits and vegetables. The success of mass communication in campaigns and interventions is not exclusive to increasing fruit and vegetable intake. This method has also proven effective at promoting folic acid supplementation and the maintenance of weight loss The Community Guide (2). I believe mass media campaigns advance nutrition efforts to reduce overweight and obesity rates because of the extent to which media is incorporated into people’s daily lives. Mobile technology gives health professionals a chance to engage in dialogue with individuals outside of clinical settings. I believe engaging with individuals in spaces they already visit may help people feel more comfortable and make them more receptive to adopting health-promoting behaviors.

The Glamorization of Murder

After many hours of class, homework, and work, I always look forward to my nightly routine of sitting down to watch Law and Order before going to bed. One may question, why are you excited to watch a show about solving murder cases? I ponder this myself about why do I enjoy this show? It makes me contemplate how murder has rapidly infiltrated our media channels and completely transformed media content. Murder in these contexts is not only considered a crime but into one of the most popular plot twists to our favorite television shows and movies. Our society has become obsessed with finding out the motive and understanding why the perpetrator killed the person. This obsession is not only seen all over television programs and movies but in our daily new outlets as well.  Is this obsession and constant perpetration of violence in our media glamorizing murder and in turn making this crime more socially acceptable?  I am guilty of this myself when I hear my friends discussing a new television show that they have been binging about solving a murder and I am immediately intrigued and want to know more. Through this glamorization process do perpetrators want the fame and recognition and to become the next plot line of the Law and Order or 60 minutes? While this has been my own anecdotal thoughts, there is a recent research that has found that contagion (exposure in media about previous incidents) predicts mass shootings and school shootings. Further research is need to explore this and better understand this phenomenon. In the meantime, let’s think about the implications of this type of obsession on our society.

#MeToo: Personal Stories of Assault Flood Social Media

As I scrolled through my phone through my various social media applications (as part of my slow Monday morning routine) I noticed the phrase “Me Too” flooding my streams. At first I was puzzled by this reoccurring status, but did a quick google search and came to astonishing realization: all of these people have experienced some sort of harassment or assault. It took a second to fully comprehend how many of my friends and followers have had this traumatic experience. As I continued scrolling through my feeds, I discovered that this campaign was kick started by a tweet by actress Alyssa Milano. Soon after many public figures came out responding with a “Me Too” including Viola Davis, Debra Messing, Rosario Dawson, Lady Gaga and Sheryl Crow just to name a few. By Monday afternoon, Twitter announced that the “Me Too” had been used in half million tweets and Facebook released “Me Too” was referenced by 8.7 million users.

This campaign comes out shortly after the New York times published a tell-all article about the alleged sexual harassment incidents by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. In the wrath of the article, Weinstein has been fired from his own company and the company will formally change their name. Let’s hope that that these events will ignite the conversation about harassment and assault and that social media will release these numbers to help change societal norms around harassment and assault!

Sources:

http://people.com/movies/me-too-alyssa-milano-heads-twitter-campaign-against-sexual-harassment-assault/

 

http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/harvey-weinstein-what-you-need-to-know-w508162

 

https://www.recode.net/2017/10/16/16482410/me-too-social-media-protest-facebook-twitter-instagram

 

Thank you to Dr. Marshall for the fascinating presentation!

Last week, we were excited to have Dr. Laura Marshall discuss her dissertation research with us. Her work looked at the different types of comments posted online under an article for Breitbart and for Huffington Post, both on the subject of healthcare reform. Identity seemed very important to establish in both comments sections with “othering” used as the most common social process, i.e. invalidating a differing opinion typically through name-calling and questioning of intelligence. Main distinctions between the two sets of comments included Breitbart comments focusing on personal responsibility and a distrust of government actions or programs, and Huffington Post comments emphasizing social justice and hopeful solutions.

What is the purpose of these comments sections and, ultimate goal, how can communication professionals utilize them? Dr. Marshall’s theory is that users of comments sections establish identity through “othering,” then seek or offer information within their group, and propose solutions.

Guest Speaker: Dr. Allison Lazard talks about eHealth Design

The UpstreamDownstream Health Communication blog is run by students enrolled in a seminar class within the Interdisciplinary Health Communication program at UNC Chapel Hill. A core aspect of this class is the opportunity provided studentes to hear about the work and the journey of leaders and leaders-to-be in the field. Dr. Allison Lazard, an Assistant Professor at the School of Media and Journalism at UNC, started off our semester of guest speakers with an engaging and informative presentation on the importance of communicable materials in interactive interventions.

Dr. Lazard sees opportunities in the world to use design manipulation to create a subjective experience for individuals with needs and wants, in order to influence better health outcomes. To prioritize the user experience, she asks specific questions about aesthetics, usability and content. She has found that tone matters, users respond well to interactive design features, and that the importance of images that match a health message cannot be understated. Her research findings also indicate that responsive websites (that automatically react to be readable for a phone screen vs a computer or tablet screen) are increasingly valuable, and that there is a clear preference for classical aesthetics when it comes to delivery of health information.

As more and more people turn to web or app-based sources of information, designing effective information sources is central to effective health communication. eHealth is a new but quickly expanding field, informed by the innovative work of researchers like Dr. Lazard. We loved hearing from her, and are excited for a semester of inspiring talks!

9/11, Hurricane Season, and disaster-related Secondary Traumatic Stress

Yesterday was the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 Terror Attack, and like many Americans I can easily recount where I was at when I saw the coverage of the attack. The event dominated news media for weeks after the events unfolded, and became enshrined as a defining moment of 21st century America.

I cannot even begin to fathom the first hand experiences of people who directly impacted from the attack, but for many, the day is a permanent memory of the way they felt, perceived, and witnessed everything unfold.

Secondary Traumatic Stress occurs when an individual hears the recounting of another’s traumatic life event. Often, the symptoms are similar to that of the more commonly known Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. In recent years, there has been more research being done to see the effects of disasters that affect those beyond those immediately experiencing an event.

In the wake of the recent disasters of Hurricane Harvey and Irma, we have seen coverage of their destruction everywhere from major news sources to the social media that we consume for updates from loved ones. A recent New York Times piece noted that the Weather Channel, being the only network to provide 24/7 access to coverage of the recent Hurricanes, had seen its audience increase nearly tenfold. The coverage of these storms has been vast, because the scale of the destruction of these storms has been unprecedented.

Covering these events is vital, it is important that we do not sensor the news that we receive just because of the harmful effects that it may have on us. But, by being more aware, and staying informed, we can acknowledge the way that having information so freely available can help us to cope, and hopefully heal, together.

 

Sources –

New York Times Piece: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/09/business/media/weather-channel-hurricane-irma.html?_r=0

Secondary Traumatic Stress: http://www.nctsn.org/resources/topics/secondary-traumatic-stress

Are You Healthy?

To understand whether or not your healthy, you have to first understand what it means to be healthy. It seems straightforward, but in the modern age, this is a complex question.

We might at first be inclined to think that being healthy means that you don’t have any illness or injury. But is this always true? What if you have an illness that is managed by medication? What if a person has a disability but the disability doesn’t disrupt their daily life? What if you’ve been diagnosed with pre-hypertension but have no symptoms?

Joseph Dumit, Director of Science and Technology Studies and Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Davis, discusses various changes to our view of health and illness since the rise of the randomized control trial in his book Drugs for Life: How Pharmaceutical Companies Define Our Health (Duke University Press, 2012). He argues “that being at risk for illness is often treated as if one had a disease requiring lifelong treatments, drugs for life” (6).

Dumit discusses a few prediseases in depth, looking at pre-hypertensive, pre-diabetes, and borderline high cholesterol. “Literally, a disease-sounding syndrome is produced by correlating risk factors and naming it in such a way that it becomes common sense to think about treating ‘it’ as a disease in and of itself” (165). Hence, health becomes a matter of risk where we are all bodies constantly at risk of disease. If you have pre-diabetes, are you healthy? How do we understand our health in a risk economy of health?

This intersects interestingly with Donald A. Barr’s claim, in his book Health Disparities in the United States: Social Class, Race, Ethnicity, & Health, that despite investing so much of our economy in health, US health indexes rank rather low; “[p]erhaps, our basic assumption–that more health care will lead, necessarily, to better health–is flawed.”